New Era Pittsburgh Basketball

Guard Cameron Wright stands out in Pitt’s preseason scrimmage

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After a subpar 2011-12 campaign the Pittsburgh Panthers rebounded some in 2012-13, returning to the NCAA tournament and finishing the season with a 24-9 record. But with leading scorer Tray Woodall (11.5 ppg, 5.1 apg), forward J.J. Moore (8.0 ppg) and centers Steven Adams (7.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Dante Taylor (5.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg) all gone, head coach Jamie Dixon has some holes to fill as the Panthers begin life in the ACC.

One important question that needs answering is who will do the majority of the scoring, and Sunday’s Blue-Gold Scrimmage may have provided one of the answers. Cameron Wright’s half-court shot in the final seconds gave the Blue team a 68-67 victory, and the basket capped a 27-point afternoon for the 6-foot-4 guard. Wright shot 9-for-15 from the field (7-for-7 FT) while also accounting for six rebounds and five assists (two turnovers).

“Cameron really stood out today,” Dixon said. “He really played well today. He’s stronger, faster and in better shape and has a better understanding of what we’re trying to do.”

Talib Zanna was the other double-digit scorer on the Blue team as he finished with 19 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, and Lamar Patterson led three Gold team players in double figures with 17 points. Rutgers transfer Derrick Randall tallied 11 rebounds to go along with his seven points for the Gold.

Scrimmages should be taken with a grain of salt, but Wright’s outing should be seen as a step in the right direction for a player who averaged just 14.6 minutes per game last season (4.3 ppg, 1.4 rpg). Wright finished the 2012-13 season with a possession percentage of 16.8% per, but with three of the Panthers’ top five players in this category gone there will be opportunities for Wright (sophomore guard James Robinson, too) in 2013-14. The question is whether or not players like Wright take advantage of those opportunities.

With veterans such as Patterson and Zanna in the front court the Panthers will have the experience needed to battle some of the ACC’s top interior players, but how successful the Panthers are could boil down to how efficient they are offensively. Pitt was second in the Big East in offensive efficiency (conference games) last season, and if they can put together a similar performance despite some key losses the Panthers could factor into the ACC race in 2013-14.

Big South moving 2016 conference tournament

Cliff Ellis
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The Big South is moving its 2016 men’s basketball tournament out of Coastal Carolina and a new site will be figured out by November. According to a release from the conference the Big South is using a league bylaw that stipulates that members leaving with less than two years of notice are not eligible to host championships. Coastal Carolina announced this summer that it would be leaving for the Sun Belt as of July 2016, so the Big South wants to find a new location that benefits teams staying in the league.

The Big South men’s and women’s conference tournaments are now also going to be split into two unique events, with the men’s championships being held Thursday-Sunday, March 3-6. The women’s event comes the next week from March 10-13. Bids for both events will come into the league and a new location will be selected in the next few months.

It will be interesting to see if the site of the conference tournament is moved to a campus site or placed at a neutral venue. That type of thing could alter how the NCAA tournament autobid gets played out. With Coastal Carolina coming off of back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, this obviously changes their approach to the postseason now that they have to leave their city.

Virginia Tech could redshirt sophomore guard

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Virginia Tech is trying to decide what to do with injury sophomore guard Ahmed Hill, who had surgery this summer to deal with a tear in his patella tendon in his left knee.

The 6-foot-5 Hill has still not been released to work out with the team, but he is about a week to 10 days ahead of schedule in his rehab. But the injury is still nagging enough that Hill might not be healthy enough to really contritbute this season. Head coach Buzz Williams is deciding soon whether he wants to redshirt Hill or not.

Hill started a team-high 30 games for the Hokies last season, averaging 8.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game.

“I don’t have a decision on (Hill),” Williams said to reporters on Monday. “I will make the final decision. I’ll let (him) and his mom be a part of it, but I want to make a decision using the wisdom of doing this for a long period of time. If you let a kid make the decision, they always want to play.

“Right now, I don’t feel comfortable that I would want to play him. It’s just too early to be able to have much more of an answer than that.”

It’s still a rebuilding year for Virginia Tech, but they do get Maryland transfer Seth Allen, who is a talented guard who can score. The Hokies were hoping to have Hill and Allen as complimentary perimeter scorers, but now the plans might have to be altered. Williams went on to say that he would like to make a decision on Hill’s status by Halloween.